After an alert sent out by the United States Department of Homeland Security about the malicious code to companies related to vital infrastructure, utility company, Burlington Electric’s IT department scanned their network and found the hacking code in one of their laptops; all credit to the utility company’s prompt and appropriate reaction to the situation.
“We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding,” said the company’s spokesman, Mike Kanarick.
According to the statement, the Burlington team were working with federal agents and officials to ensure that the offending malware was traced and eliminated.
‘Our team is working with federal officials to trace this malware and prevent any other attempts to infiltrate utility systems. We have briefed state officials and will support the investigation fully,” the spokesman added in his statement on behalf of Burlington Electric.
The only solace one can take from this whole episode is that the laptop in question was not connected to the power grid.
Just days before President Barack Obama calls it a day as the President of the United States, his administration’s conviction about the hacking seems to be coming true with the finding of this malware, allegedly, pointing a finger toward Russia.
This is a matter of huge concern for the United States because a successful hacking of a power utility, especially during the winter season, would prove to be catastrophic as correctly observed by the senior Vermont Senator Patrick Leah.
“This is beyond hackers having electronic joy rides — this is now about trying to access utilities to potentially manipulate the grid and shut it down in the middle of winter” is what the senator had to say about the severity of the issue. “That is a direct threat to Vermont and we do not take it lightly,” he added.
The Russian hacking mission has been dubbed “Grizzly Steppe,” by the United States Intelligence agencies, and if they are to be believed, the purpose of the hack was to interfere and affect the outcome of the United States Presidential election – whether the intention was to favour Trump or spite Hillary or both is still contentious.
On December 26, last year, President Barack Obama, in a bold attempt to show his contempt of the Russian hacking, imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies and expelled 35 Russian spies in response to the Vermont hacking code.
Although the Russian hacking incursion hardly caused any damage, it is indeed a matter which the U.S. Intelligence community will take extremely seriously because of the potential threats such cyber intrusions are likely to cause.
It has, embarrassingly, exposed America’s vulnerability to such cyber-attacks on the country’s power grid and has raised questions and trepidations in the United States administration that the Russian hackers are actively involved in penetrating and attacking our vital utilities.
President-elect Donald Trump, however, is still obstinate in his observations and continues to express his doubts about Russian involvement in the hacking of Hillary Clinton’s emails with the intent of damaging her electoral campaign.
“I just want them to be sure because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Trump said on New Year’s Eve. “When you look at the weapons of mass destruction — that was a disaster and they were wrong, and so I want them to be sure. I think it’s unfair if they don’t know.”
It would be noteworthy to mention that the Russians have done this in the past when they hacked the computers of a utility facility in Ukraine in December 2014 that wreaked havoc among tens of thousands of residents who were left without power.
However, Russia continues to deny any such cyber manipulation or attack on U.S. facilities.